Black clergy in county meet fund-raising goal for church

$10,000 raised to help Lothian congregation rebuild after vandalism

September 19, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

United Black Clergy of Anne Arundel County Inc. has met its goal of raising $10,000 to help refurbish Rapture Church in Lothian, which was desecrated with racial slurs and had its food pantry and equipment looted last month.

At a "restoration rally" scheduled for Saturday in Glen Burnie, United Black Clergy officials will present the donated money to church leaders to help pay expenses not covered by insurance. Church officials estimated the vandals did more than $20,000 worth of damage.

"We are stronger than any attack that can come against a church," said Bishop Larry Lee Thomas, president of United Black Clergy, which represents about 75 African-American churches. "As fast as anyone can try to tear it down, we are quick to build it back up.

"This will help them go way beyond what they had begun," Thomas added.

United Black Clergy officials said they have been heartened by the show of support for the fund-raising campaign, which has received donations from across the state.

"Out of something that was meant for evil, you can see something good coming out of it," Thomas said.

Members of the organization launched the campaign Aug. 15, five days after the church was vandalized.

Rapture Church, with 75 parishioners, is home to one of the county's oldest and largest food pantries. The pantry, which serves 800 families a month, according to church officials, had to suspend its weekly food giveaway after the vandalism. It reopened two weeks ago.

"This attack has brought our church and community closer together," the Rev. Craig Coates, senior pastor, said. Since the incident, community members have helped restock the pantry.

"People have embraced their local church," he said.

No arrests have been made in the Aug. 10 vandalism, but county police said yesterday they are looking for a full-size, tan automobile with "995" as the last digits of the license plate number. Witnesses reported seeing the vehicle near the church before the incident.

The vandals soaked floors and walls with chocolate syrup, barbecue sauce and orange juice taken from the pantry. A computer, fax machine and copier were covered with syrup. A toilet was clogged with a pork roast.

Two pentagrams - a symbol associated with satanic practices - were drawn in syrup, one on the vestibule floor, another on a mirror. Bibles were ripped apart, freezers were destroyed and sound equipment and musical instruments were stolen.

While church and community members have cleaned up the debris, structural repairs remain to be done and some items need to be replaced.

Police are offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and indictment of the vandals.

"This is a time of reflection and healing. Hopefully, one day those people responsible will be caught and we can restore them," Thomas said. "That's what it's all about: the spirit of restoration and rejuvenation."

The Rapture Church rally is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at St. James Church of the Apostolic Faith, 7566 E. Howard Road, Glen Burnie 21060. Donations can be mailed to the same address, payable to United Black Clergy.

Anne Arundel County police are asking anyone with information about the crime to call 410-222- 1960.

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